Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Trials and Tribulations of a Prison Law Paralegal - Post 1

Like Squeezing Blood from a Stone

This morning, I needed to get some paperwork from a prison. It wasn't particularly special paperwork, not highly confidential or personal. It was two records of adjudication hearings that were held in the prison yesterday. I thought that getting the records would be a fairly quick business, certainly not something that would take up much of the morning with pointless phone calls.

So here’s how it went:
First I called the main prison number and asked to speak to the Segregation Unit. The Segregation Unit were polite as ever, but unhelpful. They said I had to speak to ‘the Secretariat’ (is it me or does ‘the Secretariat’ sound like something from the Soviet Union?), and gave me a number to dial. I called the number they gave, which just rang and rang until I hung up.

So I called the main prison number again and asked to speak to the Secretariat. They were uncomprehending. I asked again:
‘You know, the Secretariat? They, erm, they work with the Segregation Unit?’
‘Oh, the Segregation Unit! Please hold.’
I was left trying to explain that no, I didn’t want the Segregation Unit, I want the Secretariat, to the hold music.
The Segregation Unit pick up and I explain to them again that I want adjudication paperwork. This time I get given a different number.

I dial the second number:
‘Hello, postroom?’
‘Erm, hi. I’m looking for some adjudication paperwork? For hearings that happened yesterday?’
‘I just work in the postroom... sorry...’

I call the main number again. This time I try asking them directly where I should get adjudication paperwork. They say they’re putting me through, and who picks up but –
‘Hello, postroom?’
‘Hi... I think we just spoke... about adjudication paperwork?’
‘Yes, hello.’
‘Sorry to bother you.’
‘I had a thought about that actually. Try speaking to [name]. She might be able to help?’
‘Thank you so much!’

I call the main number again. I ask for [name]. I am put through. Naturally she does not pick up her phone and it just rings and rings.


I make myself a cup of tea and call the main number yet again. I ask for [name]. By some miracle she finally picks up and tells me that I need to fax the request to [number]. I consider asking incredulously why none of the other people I spoke to could tell me that, but I’m too happy to finally have an answer, so I just thank her effusively and hang up.

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